The bad news that greeted the nation last Monday affected me so much that I didn’t have the strength to blog about it until now. Still couldn’t believe that something of that horrific magnitude could happen in this day and age, in this supposedly democratic country. I could only manage to write something on my Facebook wall, and my friends joined me in condemning the incident as barbaric and cowardly, indeed. Some couldn’t resist throwing in expletives or two. The general mood was one of anger and indignation, even though most didn’t personally know the people who met their tragic fate.
I am of course referring to the Nazi-style execution of a group of journalists, lawyers and family members who were supposed to file a certificate of candidacy in behalf of aspiring Maguindanao governor Datu Esmail “Toto” Mangudadatu. The suspects are the rival Ampatuan clan who is presently lording it over Maguindanao politics. With the incident, I don’t know whether they will still lord it for long. It was sheer stupidity on their part to do something as brazen, when they know the whole world is watching. They’ve also caused extreme embarrassment to the Arroyo government. Even when their political dalliance with President Arroyo is strong, the public and even international groups as high as the United Nations will hold everyone accountable for what happened.
Even worse is the incident’s implications to the idea of a free press in the country. One of the fatalities was Mindanao reporter Bong Reblando of Manila Bulletin, the newspaper I write for. I’ve met Bong once or twice when I still worked for the newspaper full time. It was kinda surreal conjuring images of someone you met before and then equating it with violence. Media is a small world after all, and the other journalists who talked or dealt with the victims on a regular basis were simply stunned. It appeared that the journalists who went with the convoy were invited precisely because it was thought that they would deter any violent plan from Mangudadatu’s political rival. Turns out even the “Media/Press” badge wasn’t enough to spare them from the tragedy.
It is indeed tragic that something like this happens six months before the Arroyo administration winds up its term of office. After the jubilation of Manny Pacquiao and Efren Penaflorida’s win, the Philippines has been put on the world map for something horrendous, so much so that even the UN has to issue a statement about it.
As for the Ampatuans, what glory is there if you wield all the armies, firearms and power in the world and yet suffer the ignominy of being written in history books for having masterminded the Maguindanao massacre?
The government has no recourse but to bring all perpetrators and accomplices to court, and swiftly deliver justice.
This humble space joins humanitarian and media groups in condemning the Maguindanao tragedy and praying for justice for all the victims and their families. Never again!